The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley

Publisher: Angry Robot Books - Pages: 544 - Buy: Book/eBook
Cover art for The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley

In the world of Kameron Hurley’s The Mirror Empire, where magic users draw their power from one of three heavenly satellites, a dark star is rising, one whose ascendance heralds a time of cataclysmic change and war between realities. For Lilia, who crossed from one world to another in childhood, fleeing the wrath of an alternate, militaristic version of the peaceful Dhai culture she now inhabits, this means discovering her mother’s hidden legacy before it can destroy her. For Akhio, the younger brother and now unexpected heir of Dhai’s deceased leader, Oma’s rise brings politicking and treachery, both from Dhai’s traditional enemies and from within his own state. For Zezili, the half-blood daijian general of matriarchal Dorinah, charged by her alien empress with exterminating the nation’s daijian population, it means an uneasy alliance with women from another world; women whose plans are built on blood and genocide. For Rohinmey, a novice parajista who dreams of adventure, Oma brings the promise of escape – but at a more terrible cost than he could ever have imagined. And for Taigan, a genderfluid assassin and powerful omajista bound in service to the Patron of imperial Saiduan, it means watching cities burn as invading armies walk between worlds with the aim of destroying his. How many realities are there? Who can travel between them? And who will survive Oma’s rise?

The Mirror Empire hooked me in from the very first page.

The Mirror Empire, the first volume of the Worldbreaker Saga, is Hugo Award-winning writer Kameron Hurley’s fourth novel, and from the minute I first saw the blurb, I knew I had to read it. The entire concept – backstabbing politics, polyamorous pacifists, violent matriarchs, sentient plant-monsters, doors between worlds – is basically my personal catnip, and when you throw in my enjoyment of Hurley’s first novel, God’s War, my expectations at the outset were understandably high. Which is ordinarily a risk factor: the more I invest in a story beforehand, the more likely I am to wind up disappointed. But The Mirror Empire, with its sprawling, fascinating mix of original cultures, political wrangling – both within the narrative and as cultural commentary – and vivid, brilliant worldbuilding, hooked me in from the very first page. The only reason it took me so long to read, in fact, was a personal reticence to have the story end: I’ve been drawing it out over weeks and months, prolonging the inevitable.

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Conversations with
My Favorite Author

“Guess how long the space ships are in this book!”

“Guess how long the space ships are in this book!”

The conversation often starts something like this. Sometimes it’s, “Guess how many different genders are in this world!” or, “Guess what Gwenna just discovered about Annick!”

I’m not the person asking. My husband poses these questions, and it is my job to answer them. If I don’t guess correctly, I’ll get another opportunity in a few minutes, a few hours, a day or two. When he’s reading a new book, each masterful bit of world-building is fodder for a conversation like this one. When he’s writing a new scene, each plot point or moment of character development is an opportunity for a pop-quiz.

“I don’t know,” I reply. “Half a galaxy long?” I think this is a plausibly impressive size, given his enthusiasm, given the volume and intensity with which he has asked the question. He knows that I cannot tell a furlong from a parsec, but he refuses to believe that a person can live in the world without understanding basic measurement and scale. Read More »

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“Allie Strom has spent her entire life drawing things,” says the official website of the American artist, and that lifelong devotion to her art certainly paid off, with a diverse and imaginative portfolio of art. I think what stands out most about Strom’s art is that no piece looks like the last. From tone, to composition, to subjects, they’re unique and individual glimpses into the worlds of the artist’s imagination. Beautiful stuff.

You can find more of Strom’s art on her DeviantArt page, her personal portfolio, and on her progress Tumblr. I recommend spending some time this weekend with all the talented young artist has to offer. Her imagination is boundless.

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If forced to choose an upcoming release that I’m most excited for (because on the Internet we’re binary and drastic), Tad Williams’ upcoming trilogy, The Last King of Osten Ard, would likely be the answer. Yeah, over Ancillary Sword or The Thorn of Emberlain or The Doors of Stone. Williams’ original Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy means so much to me that a return to that realm comes with my highest levels of excitement and expectation. No matter what happens, I’ll be jumping in with both feet and it will be an experience worth savouring (as with all of Williams’ novels.)

So, naturally, I troll the Internet looking for updates and speculation about The Last King of Osten Ard, and Williams recently gave fans a peek at his progress on the series. Williams recently reported to his message board that work on the novel had slowed down due to a family emergency and “work pressure,” but that work is now continuing on the first volume of the trilogy, The Witchwood Crown. “I’m only at about page 400 of the book,” he said. “But I’m back into a stretch where I can work on it full-time again.”

Returning to the beloved world of Osten Ard is exciting for long-time fans of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, but Williams believes the new series will be just as enjoyable for entrenched fans and newcomers alike. “I believe I can now write a story worthy of those much-loved settings and characters,” he said in the series FAQ, “one that people who haven’t read the originals can enjoy, but which will of course mean more to those who know the original work. More than that, I feel I can do something that will stand up to the best books in our field. I have very high hopes. I’m excited by the challenge. And I’ll do my absolute best to make all the kind responses I’ve already had justified.”

Further updates will no doubt emerge when Williams does an AMA (Ask Me Anything) with Reddit’s /r/fantasy forum on September 18th. So, if you have anything you want to pick his brain about, mysteries of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, if he realizes that The War of the Flowers is his secret best work, or what it’s like to have been a direct influence on the biggest fantasy series of the decade (Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire), now’s your chance!

The Witchwood Crown is still on track for a 2015 release from DAW Books. If you’re looking to join in the fun, now would be a perfect time to discover Tad Williams’ seminal Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy, beginning with The Dragonbone Chair.